JTF (just the facts): A total of 74 black and white photographs, framed in white and matted, and hung against beige walls in the entry area, the main gallery space, and the smaller side room. All of the works are vintage gelatin silver prints, made between 1929 and 1966. While no size information was available on the checklist, most of the images were roughly 9×7, with a few slightly larger. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: When a big museum retrospective comes to town, it’s common practice for the relevant galleries to put on companion shows to capitalize on the fresh interest created by the exhibit. While these shows make complete sense from a business perspective, they’re usually not all that noteworthy. But on the heels of the masterful Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light retrospective at the MoMA (here), Edwynn Houk has put on an unexpectedly strong supporting show, gathering together an exemplary group of prints drawn from Brandt family members.
The Houk show is organized in roughly the same manner as the one at MoMA, creating a kind of echo effect if you’ve seen both exhibits. What is so surprising about this gallery show is its comprehensive depth; it’s not just a handful of random prints, but a deep, well-edited selection of standouts. The gallery has been representing the estate for roughly 30 years, and during that time, it stands to reason that many of its great treasures were long ago dispersed. But this show brings to market a new cache of vintage prints that had been stored away by the family. I was particularly astonished by the large group of Brandt nudes assembled here, some 30 prints of interior scenes, high contrast abstractions, and rocky beach distortions. From our own collecting activities, I know how hard it would be to amass such a group in this day and age, so to see them all together outside the confines of a museum was pretty magical. There were even a few images that were new to me (a patterned wallpaper interior nude, a crossed knees beach study), unpublished or lesser known gems that were exciting to encounter for the first time.
So while this is a standard selling show paired with a retrospective, it’s certainly a best of breed example of such an exhibit. It covers all the major projects from his career, with plenty of superlative prints and memorable images. It’s like the Brandt market has received a much needed blood transfusion, with many classic photographs that were thought to be entirely unavailable now floating freely once again.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $18500 and $60000, with most between $25000 and $40000. Brandt’s work is consistently available in the secondary markets, with dozens of prints on offer each year. Recent prices have ranged from $2000 for lesser known works and later prints to more than $90000 for vintage prints of his most iconic images.